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Farrell’s two-year budget proposal includes $21.1M in soda tax revenue

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Mayor Mark Farrell and Supervisor Malia Cohen are expected to announce a plan to spend more than $10 million in soda tax revenue in the coming fiscal year on Tuesday. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Mayor Mark Farrell’s budget proposal will include millions of dollars from San Francisco’s soda tax for services to improve the health of low-income communities of color who are most impacted by the sugary beverages.

Farrell is expected on Tuesday to announce the plan to use the anticipated revenue from the one cent per fluid ounce tax on soda that went into effect in January with Supervisor Malia Cohen, who championed the November 2016 soda tax measure.

His two-year budget proposal assumes $11.6 million in soda tax revenue for the fiscal year beginning July 1 — of which $1.2 million was previously budgeted, leaving $10.4 million in new spending proposals — and $9.5 million in the subsequent fiscal year year.

“Whether encouraging more physical activity or promoting healthy eating campaigns, this budget will help provide solutions to the epidemics of obesity and heart disease in our underserved communities,” Farrell said in a statement. “This community-led effort will ensure that our youth and families have healthy and active programs to enjoy.”

Farrell’s announcement will focus on the $10.4 million for next fiscal year.

Said Cohen, “As the sponsor of this law, I am proud to stand with the community and uphold the promise of directing soda tax revenue towards reducing health disparities for people of color and working class people.”

The budget proposal will allocate $4.5 million in grants to nonprofits who will work with low-income communities and communities of color who suffer from a disproportionate rate of obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Studies have linked soda to causing these health impacts.

The Department of Public Health will administer $3.8 million of the grant funding and the San Francisco Unified School District will administer $728,000. The grants will fund such things as physical activity, food access and education.

The budget also includes $2.5 million in soda tax revenue that will be administered by the Department of Children, Youth and their Families, to benefit the school district, which includes $1.5 million for school meals, $550,000 for oral health and $450,000 for water stations.

“The San Francisco Unified School District is uniquely positioned to leverage its scale and role to prevent sugar sweetened beverage related diseases, such as Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes, and to disrupt and reverse health inequities in our community,” said SFUSD Superintendent Dr. Vincent Matthews, in a statement.

Other soda funding in the proposal for next fiscal year includes $1.04 million for vouchers to buy healthy foods, $450,000 for Department of Public Health’s Oral Health Community Task Forces, $400,000 for training and wage increases for peer programming staff at HOPE SF public housing sites and $150,000 to help corner stores sell healthier food.

The proposal also includes $520,000 for Recreation and Parks “peace parks” program, a collaboration with the Police Department, to improve safety and programs at the Herz Clubhouse and Playground in Visitacion Valley, Youngblood Coleman Clubhouse and Playground in Bayview Hunters Point, and the Potrero Hill Recreation Center.

The 16-member Sugary Drinks Distributor Tax Advisory Committee, which the soda tax ballot measure mandated, submitted to the mayor its recommendations in March and is supportive of the mayor’s proposal.

About $800,000 will go to support the task force’s ongoing work, including research, data and staffing, as well as costs for the Department of Public Health to administer the grants.

The soda tax announcement Tuesday is the latest in a series of announcements made by Farrell in recent weeks, offering a preview of what will be in the two-year city budget he must submit to the Board of Supervisors by June 1 for review and adoption.

His budget announcements include a nearly $1 million needle clean up team and $6 million to increase the Department of Public Health’s Street Medicine team by 10 employees to distribute buprenorphine to wean drug addicts off of heroin.

He also announced his budget would call for spending $34.2 million more on the Police Department for more officers, equipment and vehicles. And his budget proposal will include $4.2 million to fund HIV/AIDS services, including backfilling federal funding cuts.

For homeless services, Farrell announced he would propose increasing the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing’s budget by 11.7 percent, or $29.1 million. The funding includes $15.2 million for four Navigation Centers and $2 million for the opening and operation of the Minna Lee Hotel, a master-leased building with 50 supportive housing units in SoMa.

Farrell’s task of balancing the budget was seemingly made easier as The City’s revenue projection has only improved heading into June. In December, The City projected a cumulative deficit over the next two fiscal years of $262 million, but in May the City Controller’s 9-month budget report showed the deficit over the two years has reduced to $42.3 million.

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